Chat with John Oreovicz
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com IndyCar reporter John Oreovicz stops by to talk about the season and next weekend's Indy 500.
Oreovicz attended his first Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in 1978 and still hasn't broken the open-wheel racing habit. He has covered nearly 300 Indy-style races for National Speed Sport News and many other publications around the world and co-authored "A Winning Adventure," a history of Honda's successful Champ Car engine program. "Oreo" resides in western Indiana within earshot of his home track, the Putnam Park Road Course.
Send your questions now and join Oreovicz Friday at 4 p.m. ET!
Oreo (4:01 PM)
Greetings from the 4th floor Media Center at Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Thanks for joining our IndyCar Series chat.
Oreo (4:03 PM)
It's the first really nice day of the week and we've had 40 cars on track. The order at the front is pretty surprising with Alex Tagliani and Ed Carpenter again running 1-2.
Oreo (4:03 PM)
So let's get to the questions!
Andrew (Kettering Ohio)
Thoughts on Simona's crash? Seemed like that car was going to fly no matter what!
Oreo (4:07 PM)
Well first of all it was obvious that the car broke, causing the crash. You could see the back end drop with sparks flying off. Cars built to the 2003 IRL formula don't get up in the air as much as they used to, thankfully, but they sure seem susceptible when they go backwards at high speed. Poor Simona has had two nasty accidents involving fire now but I don't doubt her ability to bounce back mentally. Physically, the burns to her hand may be serious enough to keep her out of the 500.
Larry Carta (Crete, Illinois)
Who's sandbagging the most?
Oreo (4:09 PM)
I'm guessing it's the Ganassi team. Franchitti and Dixon only did about 15 laps apiece over the first two days and they were clearly focusing on race setup on Thursday, the first full day of practice. They've been making longer runs today too and I don't expect them to really go for one-lap (or four-lap) speed until later today.
Roger Waters (West Lafayette, In.)
What are the chances that the winner will not be a Ganassi nor a Penske driver?
Oreo (4:11 PM)
Thanks for taking a break from touring 'The Wall' to write in, Roger. I'd say there is a 10 percent chance the winner will be other than Penske or Ganassi.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will win the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500?
Oreo (4:12 PM)
I think Will Power will break through for his first oval win in a big way. He's ready.
Oreo! Good to see you chatting again.SFR is looking fast and Ed says he is hoping to make the top 9 for tomorrow. Has the team improved that much or is the feedback better from driver to crew than in years past?
Oreo (4:16 PM)
Ed's a good driver but with all due respect, the combination of him and Sarah Fisher Racing doesn't add up to second place, which is where they currently rank on the speed chart. But Sarah has done an excellent job of slowly growing her team and Mike O'Gara is doing a good job of engineering the car.
Vitor and the Foyt team are maybe a more pleasent surprise with speed than even Ed Carpenter. Has AJ put more money into the team for engineering?
Oreo (4:19 PM)
The Foyt team is taking more of a 21st century engineering approach with Larry Foyt at the helm and Meira and Bruno Junqueira are a strong driver pairing. A win for Vitor would be quite the feel good story on the 50th anniversary of AJ's first win.
S-F-R is looking F-A-S-T! Good to see that team doing so well. can they make the shootout for pole tomorrow?
Oreo (4:21 PM)
I doubt Penske and Ganassi have shown their best effort for qualifying yet and I suspect they'll be running 229-mph laps later this afternoon. But if Ed and SFR make the top 9 on Saturday that will be a heck of an achievement.
Scott C (washington dc)
What is Danika Patricks chance of winning this year or finishing in the top 5
Oreo (4:23 PM)
Her chances of winning are pretty slim. But she's consistent, she's not a crasher, she is easy on her equipment and she has a savvy strategist, which is why she always fares well at Indy.
Whitney (Charlotte, NC)
How much do you think the "Spectacle" of Danica Patrick as decreased?
Oreo (4:25 PM)
I'd say the Danica spectacle has diminished quite a bit at Indy car venues because she's been around for almost seven years. She still gets the biggest cheers but the media circus surrounding her has disappeared. She still gets that in NASCAR and I hear she sells more merchandise there than most of the established Cup drivers. The media frenzy will really ratchet up when she goes NASCAR full-time in 2012.
Dale (Grand Rapids)
I hope Simona is a "go" for Sunday quals, or at least from the 33rd spot if someone else can qualify for her. Do you think that team makes the show this year?
Oreo (4:29 PM)
It will be interesting to see who HVM tries to hire to qualify and/or possibly race the car. The Indy prize money of $300,000 minimum is significant for the smaller teams. Though they have a big challenge ahead of them, I've learned to never say never about Keith Wiggins or the HVM team.
Nascar drivers are just wimps and afraid to drive and indycar 230. They claim they have no time but can race in nationwide, dirt track, and even drag races.
Oreo (4:30 PM)
Don't know if they are wimps, but they're probably smart enough to know that they won't be remotely competitive in an Indy car without a considerable amount of testing. And that's just impossible given their schedules. And manufacturer affiliations.
Hello John - Is Andretti working on something different for RHR? He has been the slowest of that team, I think.
Oreo (4:32 PM)
Actually Mike Conway has been really struggling and he's only 38th fastest today at barely 222 mph. The AA cars have gotten progressively slower all week, kind of like they did last year. Danica is the quickest among them today but she's only 17th.
I was in town last week for the 2 seater ride. Great thrill! But what do you know of local politics - Does the town of Speedway not believe in infrastructure improvement? The roads are a touch bad, but then again, the Interstate work has been going on how long?
Oreo (4:34 PM)
They finally finished up Main Street right in my Speedway neighborhood. The 465 work has been going on for the better part of a year and the phase they are in right now is going to adversely affect traffic for the Indy 500.
John, What are your thoughts on the double file restarts for this race?
Oreo (4:35 PM)
There's going to be at least one accident on a restart, more likely in the second half of the race when the groove is narrow.
Drew (Bloomington, Ind.)
Great to see you back on chat, Oreo! What do you make of the recent speed the Sam Schmidt cars have shown? Could that translate to qualifying and race day?
Oreo (4:41 PM)
That's a good team, with Rob Edwards managing and Allen McDonald engineering. Last year was Tagliani's first time at Indy, believe it or not, and he's good on fast speedways. And Townsend Bell always runs well here too. It's good to see Sam step up to a full-time car in the IndyCar Series.
Sandy (Las Vegas)
Simona may not make it, I agree, as much as I hate to. Any other surprise shutouts, like maybe an Andretti car?
Oreo (4:44 PM)
I think at least one "big name" is going to fail to qualify and a couple of the Andretti drivers are certainly candidates. Conway has really struggled and you have to wonder if last year's wreck still has him a little spooked. There was garage talk today that Marco Andretti is pretty frustrated and he's 36th fastest today. One of the KV cars might be on the bubble too.
In a pit road sprint, who wins: Miller, Pruett, Hinton (yeah, right), Cavin or you?
Oreo (4:45 PM)
Hinton would stop for a cigarette, Miller would peel off to talk to his bookie, and Pruett would be weighed down by all the equipment he lugs around. That leaves me and Cavin and he'd win that race no contest. In cars it might be a different story!
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Oreo, I enjoy your IndyCar coverage. My favorite driver is Dan Wheldon. Do you know why he has fallen off from being a title contender to barely being able to find a sponsor to race in the 500? Thanks!
Oreo (4:47 PM)
Wheldon's background is road racing, but like a few other drivers from the IRL's all oval era (Hornish, Scheckter etc.), he lost his road racing chops. Those races make up more than half the schedule now, so he's at an immediate disadvantage for the overall championship.
What Indycar stories are you working on beyond the decade-by-decade detail? I'll be sure to check in again next week - if I can find the stories on espn.com :)
Oreo (4:48 PM)
Gotta do a qualifying weekend preview tonight, then we will shift our focus to the race itself next week. We still have the 1990s and 2000s to cover in our decade-by-decade history of IMS.
Serious question - Do you think the Road to Indy program Randy Bernard envisions will bear fruit (fruit of interest to fans, too)?
Oreo (4:50 PM)
My honest opinion is that USAC short track racing has no relevance to modern Indy car racing. It's perfect training for NASCAR and that - along with the prospect of earning more money - is why so many sprint car drivers graduate to stock cars. I think USAC put an end to their racing being used as a path to Indy cars when they banned rear engine cars. I also don't think there is much commonality for fans to latch onto either. INDYCAR's challenge is to make the open wheel formula car training ladder more popular.
J.C Hartsfield (South Haven, MI)
So what's your prediction for pole speed?
Oreo (4:51 PM)
I think it will be Will Power at 228.4 mph.
Oreo, what incentive would Penske or Ganassi have to NOT show their hand in these practices? Wouldn't they want to establish their dominance with so few sessions (weather)?
Oreo (4:53 PM)
As Dario recently told me, running around this place with the car trimmed out is a pretty stressful proposition. Those teams have enough of an engineering database that they can keep the race setup on the car until, say, now, and then perfect a qualifying setup with an hour of practice. Both of those teams were out there pounding around today between 12 and 3 - in race conditions.
Tags, Bell, Carpenter. It's at least nice to see non-P&G cars top the charts - until Saturday, that is. So, who makes top 9 for the shootout?
Oreo (4:54 PM)
Power, Castroneves, Briscoe, Franchitti, Dixon, Tagliani, Servia, Rahal, Carpenter.
Andrew (Kettering Ohio)
Do you see Dario and Helio hitting the 4 win number? I would say they are the only 2 I see doing it anytime soon but I hope that it doesn't happen! I don't see Dixon winner more than 2 ino his career.....
Oreo (4:57 PM)
I think Dario has a better chance of winning four than Helio. HCN is struggling right now and really needs to turn things around in a hurry, plus one of his wins (the disputed one in 2002) wasn't exactly dominant. Franchitti is a more steady performer and he's figured out how to be in the mix at Indy every year. In fact, he's getting better and better at IMS.
Artie Baldacci (Chicago, Il)
Who will be the "biggest name" NOT to make the final 33?
Oreo (5:00 PM)
My guess is Mike Conway. He's not exactly a big name, but he did win an IndyCar Series race this year. Frankly, all the Andretti Autosport drivers could struggle - Danica is 17th today, RHR 28th, John Andretti 29th, Marco 36th and Conway 38th. Also, there's word emerging that Scott Speed has just quit Dragon Racing. He's 37th today.
Oreo (5:00 PM)
Another hour has passed without incident or full-course caution. Thanks for participating!